Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wanna buy a prison? Private prison market bursting leaves town desperate for buyers

One named after a former Texas Speaker of the House, no less? At 11 a.m. today you get your chance. Reports AP:
A prison that a Texas High Plains town hoped would provide a bonanza but instead went broke is going on the auction block.

Littlefield is putting the Bill Clayton Detention Center up for auction Thursday with a $5 million minimum opening bid. Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams & Williams Worldwide Real Estate Auction is handling the bidding. Its throwing in the furniture, linen, computers, kitchen supplies and other equipment contained in the 30-acre complex 36 miles northwest of Lubbock.

Littlefield built the 373-bed, medium-security prison with proceeds from an $11 million bond issue and signed The GEO Group to run it. The hope was for states experiencing prison overcrowding to pay to house its inmates there.

Instead, escapes, corruption and living conditions prompted states to withdraw their inmates, leaving an empty prison.
In a story behind their paywall, the Dallas News reported that there were at least six interested buyers, including private prison firms and "other municipalities needing more space for inmates." (We may safely assume Lubbock isn't among them, since they've got a near-empty jail competing with the Littlefield facility.) Go here to bid or watch the auction online.

I'm not sure I've ever heard of an actual auction for a jail or prison unit, but this is the inevitable, last-ditch outcome for counties that speculatively built extra jail capacity (or in this case a prison unit on spec), but couldn't lease out the beds once construction was complete. As Grits has reported in the past, a similar fiscal drama is playing out with the "Doomsday Deal" in McLennan County and a long list of empty, speculative jails in Texas, so unless there's a new source of prisoners out there - private prison firms are banking on immigration detention - this may not be the last Texas jail or prison unit we see auctioned off like some defaulted property on the steps of the county courthouse.

RELATED: From the American Independent, "Texas town pins hope on prison auction Thursday, years after private operator left."

MORE: The prison went for $6 million to an as-yet undisclosed bidder. The town still owed $9 million on the prison, so locals will have to eat the difference.


Anonymous said...

Homeless shelter? Housing for CCC or hotshot crew fighting wildfires? An educational facility of some sort? Detox and treatment facility?

Sandy said...

Great suggestions, Anonymous 8:16.

I hope everybody who banks on the down-side of human existence goes belly up! Who needs vultures feeding off the most troubled members of our society? Ick!

Don said...

It is an almost 400 bed facility. None of the things mentioned in Anon 8:16 would be viable for a town the size of Littlefield. Private prison companies are the only ones who have shown an interest. If they already have inmates and need space, it might could work for them, but the labor market is the main obstacle there. That's part of the reason Geo had so much trouble.

Anonymous said...

When the prisons close, its good news for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes you just piss me off Scott! Lubbock doesn't have a "near empty jail." Last I looked (last week) 1150 of the 1500 beds were filled. And, it's been that way for several months.
And, there was nothing "speculative" about the new jail. It was built as a replacement. I know these facts do not fit your political narrative against expanding jails, etc. but dammit, you are wrong about Lubbock and have been from the git-go.

Secondly, FYI, the Clayton facility was built as a juvenile facility and held county and TYC kids for several years before being converted into it's current configuration.


The Homeless Cowboy said...

Dont hold back Les, tell us how you really feel. Sorry if you lost one of those great jobs sitting horseback bossing convicts and spitting tobacco juice on the ground. Hopefully those folks who set up these facilities to profit off of other peoples misery will end up living in them and eating the rotten food they wanted to force on others in the name of profit.

Dont yell at Scott because someone else was stupid, ut wasnt his fault.
You have a great day now